The Maryland Ballet is a company that has clearly been on the way up ever since Kathleen Crofton took over its artistic direction in 1974. But it one asks "up to what?," an answer remains elusive.

As matters now stand, the troupe is the nearest approach to a full-fledged professional classical ballet company in the Washington-Baltimore area, thanks to a core of about 20 well-trained dancers and Crofton's initiative. There are also persistently vexing questions - how much to rely on guest stars, what theater to use as a base, where to tour and how often, and most important, how to build a viable repertoire.

The company's appearance at Baltimore's Lyric Theater Friday evening illustrated all the polarities involved. A number of the company dancers have been making splendid strides, most notably Camille Izard, who has obvious potential as a classical ballerina. As she showed in the "Corsaire" pas de deux and Skibine's revived "Dalhnis and Chloe," her technique is formidable but not as yet foolproof. She is consistently musical, however, and her line is both smooth and sweeping. She also had the advantage of fine partnering by company newcomer Sylvester Campbell, who on his own account, gave his most dashing, impressive local performance to date in the "Corsaire" duet. Others who looked particularly promising during the evening were Linda Kintz, Trent Gray and Debra Van Cure.

Guest artists Helgi Tomasson and Marianna Tcherkassky danced handsomely together, but their "Don Quixote" pas de deux was no more than a flashy lagmiappe, box-office bait with no integral relation to the company.

The biggest drawback was the program itself - an inconsequential and uncharacteristic Tudor ballet, two thoroughly dispensable Skibine pieces, and a couple of pas de deux. If the company is to advance, it will need more solid choreography. The theater, too, has its problems, including miserable sight lines and an execrable sound system. The raw material of the company is imposing; a proper framework is still at bay.